Congolese farmers in South Kivu district have boosted their yields and transformed their lives over the past two years. The farmers are benefiting from the improved availability of agricultural inputs, brought by Rwandan traders crossing the border to find food to supply their own markets.
Mashii Mwagalwa owns a farm in Kamanyola, about 30 kilometres south of Bukavu. He says: “[The traders] take our harvest back to their country to treat and process it. Then they bring [some of it] back to us as flour … already packed in 25 or 50 kg sacks.”
Riziki Estella is a Bukavu farmer who opened a maize and cassava flour warehouse. He says the Rwandans could not find enough food to supply their own markets. So they decided to help Congolese farmers improve their yields to help address the Rwandan shortfall.
Until the traders arrived, the supply of good quality agricultural inputs in South Kivu was poor. The Rwandans realized that local farmers needed good quality seeds, fertilizers and pesticides. So the traders started supplying them with imported Rwandan inputs on credit. The debts were repaid after harvest.
Congolese farmers are benefiting from the arrangement. Their yields have improved, especially the maize and cassava that the traders export to Rwanda.
Serge Mashanga farms on the Rusizi plain in South Kivu. He says: “I pay school fees for my children thanks to my farming being supported by a Rwandan businessman. He provides me with pesticides on credit, and I pay him for them after harvest.”
The venture has proved so lucrative that Mr. Mashanga intends to expand his cropping area to three hectares next growing season.
Many farmers no longer have to take inputs on credit, as they can now afford to buy them upfront. Baudouin Luminino is one farmer who has seized this opportunity.
Mr. Luminino says, “Before they arrived, my wife and I were not able to [grow in large quantities]. Today we regularly buy pesticides ourselves, and thanks to them our plants are very healthy.” He adds that they also rely on the Rwandan traders to supply seeds of high-yielding cereals.
Local farmers are grateful for the initiative shown by the Rwandans. They say that without them, their harvests were too low to make a decent living.
The Rwandan traders have changed the markets in South Kivu. Because there is more flour available, the price has dropped. A 25-kilo bag of semolina flour now costs $14-20 US. Two years ago, it was $16-22 US. The price of cassava flour has been cut in half. Farmers are growing and selling more crops, and paying less for their food. This is a business deal in which everyone wins.